The Island of Korcula and Marco Polo

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Remember when you were a kid learning about the famous explorers’ brave enough to set sail and travel waters and far away lands?  I will never forget Miss Whitmore my 7th grade teacher. She had poofy hair and wore ugly dad sweaters before that was “cool”. Her classroom was filled with trinkets that looked like they came from Indiana Jones himself. She had a funny way of introducing the concept of exploration and marrying it with her personal life. I say married because she was the bride left at the alter with a runway groom. (Awkward).  Anyway, she would paint a picture of forlorn dark times when people had to venture out to uncharted lands. I was captivated. We covered Columbus, Vespucci, Cortez, Magellan, Cook, Vasco de Gama and Ponce de Leon.  Yeah, all those guys were great, but for me one stood out above the rest. Marco Polo. Going to school in the States taught me that Marko Polo was Italian.  What?  

 I was a nerdy looking kid, and socially awkward. Going to a Catholic School wearing a uniform sporting a short haircut (it was awful) I was determined to set the record straight. I timidly raised my hand. Thank god the shirts were white, because I was a sweeting like crazy. Did I mention how shy I was? Being the “ugly” kid doesn’t really scream classroom participation, so this was a bold move. I regretted it the second my hand went up. Crud, Miss Whitmore sees my hand…I can’t put it down now. Can I pretend I had a spasm? And then I hear her calling me. I can only imagine what kind of a hot gross mess I must have looked like. Without looking at my peers, I stare at the ugly sweater vest Miss Whitmore is wearing and I blurt out, “Marco Polo was Croatian not Italian. He was born on the Island of Korcula”.

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Long pause followed by even longer silence coupled with a blank stare and then…the bell rings! What a load of garbage! My face felt so hot as my cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. Every agonizing second, I sat in that stupid seat waiting for my teacher to respond, and she just waited for the bell to ring. I felt week, and light headed. I knew it was recess, but I just wanted to get out of the classroom and find the nearest bathroom stall to hide In. As the kids are clearing out, Miss Whitmore walks over to my desk. Oh man can this day get any worse? Surprisingly, she was curious to hear what I had to say. Phew. Dodged that bullet. I’m not an elephant and can’t remember verbatim what I told her, but it must have been convincing enough because the next day she said there was compelling evidence suggesting that Marco Polo was in fact Croatian from the Island of Korcula. Victory !!

Getting back to why I started this post in the first place, Korcula and Marco Polo.

There is an older legend to Korcula and one that might be more impressive. According to legend, the town of Korcula was founded by the Trogan War Hero Antenor, after the fall of Troy. Together with Antenor arrived Lucius Polus, an ancestor to the Famous Polo Family.

Marco Polo was born 1254 on the Island of Korcula. He was not the first explorer in his family. In fact it was his father Nikola and his Uncle Mate who would take Marco to Asia. The Polo family had an adventurous life. In the summer of 1271 at the age of 17 Marko embarked with his father and uncle and set out to sea. He would travel for 26 years before returning home. He never did sea any sea monsters, but his travels and manuscripts, along with drawings, and books are still regarded as one of the greatest stories of all time.

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Korcula is one of my favorite islands to visit. It is just breathtaking. The walls of the city are beautiful, and the stony walkways lead to more magnificent sights to behold inside the city. I can walk through the center of town and never be bored of unimpressed.  Having Ivan for a husband has helped inspire me to learn more about Croatia, especially considering that we are cruising around the beautiful Adriatic.

The Island has so much to offer, and such rich history, which will have to be revisited in another post. As for places to check out, head over to a museum that depicts the travels of Marco Polo and his life in prison. The museum is fun and interactive, I totally recommend visiting. I have been with my kids, and they enjoy returning to the museum every summer.

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The gift shops have replications of maps which I just love. I have bought almost everyone they have. Speaking of maps, here’s a fun fact for you.

“Marko’s description of Japan (“Zipangua”) later led Christopher Columbus finally to the decision to depart towards the land of the rising sun in the year 1492. Columbus’s notes are written in the Latin version of Marko’s book The Million, which has been kept in the Colombina library in Seville. They disclose the deep interest with which he read about Polo’s travels. Therefore Genoa, unlike its trade opponent, Venice, set up in its Municipio a mosaic portrait of Marko Polo vis-a-vis a similar portrait of the Genoese, Christopher Columbus.” – Dr. Zivan Filippi

Korcula has more than just Marco Polo, it has wine !!! Wonderful yummy wine that you can taste and pair with old traditional food. This is my favorite part of cruising with Ivan. There really isn’t a better way to end a day filled with swimming and water polo than with wine, and more wine.

Check out my other posts about Korcula, including the spooky stories I love to tell at night on the top deck of the boat.

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